Collective hopes to keep film-makers in South

Southern Filmmakers’ Collective members Sue Marshall and Reece Hallum discuss the future of film...
Southern Filmmakers’ Collective members Sue Marshall and Reece Hallum discuss the future of film-making in Otago and Southland. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
In a bid to stop the brain drain of southern film-makers heading north or overseas, a group of Otago and Southland film industry members have established the Southern Filmmakers’ Collective.

The collective aims to keep talent in the South by providing training, mentorship and networking opportunities, that will help emerging producers build their careers and establish themselves in the industry.

Collective spokesman Reece Hallum said emerging producers in the region faced a lack of funding, training and networking opportunities, which limited their ability to break into the industry and build successful careers.

"The industry in Otago, Central Lakes and Southland is at a critical juncture, and we can’t afford to let the current barriers to success continue.

"The time for action is now."

The collective, funded by Film Otago Southland, is proposing a comprehensive suite of industry-leading programmes designed to nurture and develop talent in the region, and provide a pathway for emerging producers to establish themselves in the industry.

"Our approach isn’t just necessary — it’s also urgent," Mr Hallum said.

"We need to act quickly to ensure that emerging producers in the region have the support they need to stay, and more importantly, succeed.

"By empowering them, we can create a more vibrant, diverse, and representative film industry that truly reflects the unique cultures and stories of our community.

"Our ultimate goal is to create a model that can be replicated across Aotearoa New Zealand, providing a blueprint for other regions to follow."

While there was a lot of promise in the state of the film industry in the southern regions, it was not where it should be.

He said a recent report, commissioned by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise on future demand for regional studios, highlighted the "dire situation".

While the region’s landscapes featured widely on screen, statistics showed between 2019 and 2021, only 2% of television production funding through NZ On Air went to Otago or Southland-based production companies.

"It’s a shocking figure and a clear indication that there is a need for change.

"The numbers for feature films are equally alarming.

"Despite 15% of New Zealand Film Commission feature film funding going to projects filmed in Otago, Central Lakes and Southland between 2014 and 2021, almost all of these were produced by North Island-based companies.

"This lack of representation and opportunity is unacceptable, and it is time to address it head-on."

Film Otago Southland co-manager and collective member Stefan Roesch ran a survey of film-makers in the southern regions in October and November last year.

It had an overall response rate of 77%, and the majority of respondents identified themselves as emerging talent.

It found the main challenges for film-makers in Otago and Southland included physical isolation (20%), the perception of not being taken seriously by funders (20%), reduced access to networking opportunities (17%) and a lack of producers (14%).

Mr Hallum said it was a clear indication that there was a wealth of untapped potential in the region.

"And with the right support and opportunities, these film-makers could produce exceptional work that reflects the unique cultures and stories of our community."

One of the collective’s first major events will be the Southern Screen Summit, to be held in Invercargill on September 21.

The one-day film industry event, followed by a networking session, would be sponsored by the Southern Institute of Technology and with funding from Film Otago Southland, he said.

"The major aim of the event is to explore funding opportunities, grants and support mechanisms specifically tailored towards regional film-makers, and addressing the financial barriers they often face in bringing projects to fruition. A particular focus will be alternative funding models, in order to encourage innovative future film-making," he said.